Popular Montrose Coffee House Expands with Second Location in Downtown Houston
Houston is a diverse city, and that’s reflected not only in the local food scene but also in the growing and thriving coffee culture. Between supply chain constraints, rising wages and increased operating costs, now more than ever is a time to support local, and several new small businesses have already opened this year. Among those is the second location of one of my favorite coffee shops, Campesino Coffee House.
The Montrose location opened in 2016 in a charming bungalow, once home to the eclectic thrift store, The Way We Wore. It’s an ideal place to hide away and read a book, catch up with friends or simply grab a café con leche on a cold day. In December 2022, owner Antonio Villalobos quietly opened the second location at 1111 Prairie Street, the former home of the first Hubcap Grill, which closed in late 2019. There, he’s offering the same warm, inviting atmosphere and Latin-centric specialty drinks as at the original.
It took a couple of years to complete the extensive overhauls the former burger joint needed. Now, the downtown Campesino is amiable, cozy and cheerful, using the same bright colors that evoke South and Central American folklore. The welcoming outdoor patio tucked on the side includes a nod to Texas, with its “From Tejas with Love” mural, and will be an enticing nook when the weather warms up.
Villalobos, originally from El Salvador, grew up in Southwest Houston. He has been a part of the Bayou City beverage scene for many years, working at coffee shops (including Diedrich’s Coffee) and as a bartender at clubs and bars throughout the city. He was managing Etro Nightclub in its initial Montrose location when he took over ownership and eventually moved it downtown. There it still draws crowds looking to dance the night away to ’80s and ’90s hits. During this time, he decided to act on his passion for coffee and opened Campesino Coffee House.
“Campesino” translates to “farmer” in English and is an homage to his heritage and to the idea of supporting local business and purveyors. Villalobos proudly serves only coffee beans from Mexico, Central and South America, and has a long-standing relationship with local coffee roaster Katz Coffee and owner Avi Katz. They have a shared mission of working with small farmers and suppliers who prioritize sustainability and environmental responsibility. Campesino serves Katz Coffee daily, but also regularly features local roasters such as Xela Roasters, Boomtown Coffee and Fusion Beans.
Campesino offers traditional coffee drinks, but the specialty creations are where it really stands out. On the menu you’ll find café de olla, coffee with cinnamon and piloncillo (a Mexican form of raw cane sugar) served in traditional earthen clay mugs. The Maya Mocha Latte is kicked up with cayenne, cinnamon and paprika. One of the customer favorites is the Horchata Iced Latte. Horchata is originally a Spanish drink but is common in countries like Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. It is a sweet and usually dairy-free beverage made of soaked grains and water that is flavored with spices. The horchata at Campesino is made with sugar, rice, vanilla, and cinnamon, then two shots of espresso are added to create the latte.
The Red Velvet Iced Mocha is a pleasant surprise. Based on the name alone, it is not something I’d usually order, but it isn’t the cloying sweet drink you might imagine. It is a standard mocha latte (using a house-made mix) but with the addition of beet juice, which gives it a beautiful, deep-mauve color and just the right amount of earthy sweetness. If you’re looking for a non-coffee drink, Campesino offers the vampiro, a drink with Mexican cocktail origins, but the healthy version here is just beet, carrot and orange juices.
Campesino also serves a limited food menu, which was temporarily scaled back during the pandemic. Salvadoran tamales delivered from La Roca, a restaurant in Southwest Houston, are available daily. Choose from pork, chicken or vegan-friendly options of black bean or elote. You can also grab pastries from Heights favorite El Bollilo. Villalobos will be bringing back the extended menu to include breakfast tacos and choripan, a sausage sandwich served on bolillo bread and topped with chimichurri sauce. Both locations currently have prep kitchens, but, toward the end of the year, he plans to build out full kitchens where all the food can be made in house. Here’s hoping pupusas make it on the menu.
Villalobos’ goal is to open one more location of Campesino Coffee House. He has his eye on a few potential spots, but for now he’s concentrating on getting the downtown location settled. The hours are currently Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Villalobos plans to extend hours to 7 p.m. daily once grand-opening plans, an updated website and social media pages are ready.
Minh Truong is an avid lover of the Houston food scene and has written about it since 2011, starting as a freelance contributor for the Houston Press. She never stopped exploring all that Houston has to offer, and after a seven-year hiatus returned to writing about it, this time with Houston Food Finder.